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Cover of Spring 2020 issue

Spring 2020
Volume 44, Number 1

Contact information
For information on the magazine's webpage, contact:
Kathryn Kahler
Associate editor

Readers Write

Want to comment on a story? Send letters to: Readers Write, WNR magazine, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707, or email to DNR Magazine. Limit letters to 250 words and include your name and the community from which you are writing.


Spring 2018 cover of Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

What an absolutely gorgeous cover on your spring "celebration" issue! I can actually feel the joy and delight of the kids caught in a surprise rainstorm and having a wonderful old tunnel in which to ride it out. It's a perfect photo to celebrate not only DNR and the NRF field trips as you state on the cover, but also to celebrate the many years Wisconsin citizens have been able to enjoy your wonderful, educational publication. Thank you!

Sheila Wistad Fugina
New Richmond


Closeup of female pheasant chick head

Closeup of male pheasant chick head

The pheasant hatchery story in the Spring 2018 issue ("Hatching success at State Game Farm") mentions sorting chicks by sex a few hours after they're born. How do you tell them apart?

Bill Dunn

That's a great question, Bill! Kelly Maguire, supervisor at DNR's State Game Farm in Poynette, explains there is a slight difference in the area just in front of the eye of day-old pheasant chicks. "The male chick (bottom photo) has a small, bare patch of skin corresponding to the cheek patch or wattle of the adult. It looks like a semi-circular reddish line in the eye area."


A whooping crane dancing on the ice

I just wanted to share this once-in-a-lifetime shot I got in late March. I had only seen whooping cranes last year at a very long distance at Horicon Marsh but that weekend we came upon this whooping crane very close to the roadside and watched two of them dance and interact with the sandhill cranes. It was so awesome to see and capture!

Heather Landers

After sending Heather's sighting to DNR wildlife biologist Davin Lopez, he shared this information about crane #39-16, pictured, from the Operation Migration Inc. website:

Hatched June 1, 2016, and raised by whooping crane parents at a captive breeding center in Maryland, colt #39-16 was initially released in September 2016 in Adams County, where he remained until early December. The morning of Dec. 7, he left with a buddy (#29-16) and many sandhill cranes on a southward migration. They over-wintered in Dyer County, Tennessee, and returned north in mid-April 2017 to Chippewa County, Wisconsin, and then to Ward County, North Dakota.

These two males (known to observers as "Mutt" and "Jeff") returned to Wisconsin in early October 2017 and were selected to have two female parentreared chicks released near them. The release took place in Marathon County and while the foursome was observed together a few times, an official "adoption" did not take place. Male 29-16 and his pal 39-16 headed south again on Nov. 9 and by the 12th had returned to the previous winter's location in Tennessee. And as evidenced from Heather's photo, he was back in Wisconsin in late March 2018 on the Horicon Marsh.

The Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership is a nonprofit organization of individuals and government agencies dedicated to whooping crane recovery. Check out their website,, for more information, including what to do if you see a whooper.


I am curious to know why there aren't YCC (Youth Conservation Camps) anymore. Back in 1974, I went to one near Clam Lake and it was one of the best experiences of my life! We did many conservation projects like tree planting, making small dams along waterways, built fire pits for campgrounds, pruned pine trees plus so much more.

We also had our hands-on educational times in the woods with our leaders learning about plants, animals, eco-systems. We also took some field trips, lived in dorms and had simple meals. We were paid a modest sum for our efforts and it was totally worth it. I think this would still really benefit teens nowadays to be more interested in preserving and appreciating our environment. What do you think? I would love to hear from someone there.

Lori Rowin
St. Croix Falls

Black and white vintage photo of young men in hardhats skinning a log

The Youth Conservation Camp program was started in 1962 under the Conservation Department and was modeled after the post-World War II-era Civilian Conservation Corps. Over the YCC's 30-plus years, more than 24,000 high school-aged students spent summers at work camps across Wisconsin, such as Statehouse Lake (Vilas County), White River (Bayfield County), Ernie Swift (Washburn County), Mecan River (Marquette County) and Kettle Moraine (Washington County). In 1974, restrictions were repealed and girls were allowed to attend. By the mid-1990s, budget cuts, liability concerns and changing social norms were creating challenges to the program, and in 1995, the camps were closed.

Not only did young people benefit from their work experiences, but DNR properties did as well. Ray Hendrikse, YCC leader through much of the program's existence, said in 1986, "The simple truth of the matter is that without the assistance of the youth camps, development, restoration and maintenance of state parks, wildlife areas, forests, streams and lakes would be severely reduced. Without them, conservation work would continue to get done, but to a much lesser degree."


Bumble bee sitting on a pink blossom

The bees were busy collecting pollen today in Vernon County. Some think thistles aren't pretty. I am a firm believer that beauty is in the eye of the "bee-holder."

Len Harris
Richland Center

Jay Watson, a DNR conservation biologist stationed in Green Bay, confirmed this is the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). While he agrees that bumble bees indeed like musk thistle, he cautions that it is classified as invasive and restricted under NR 40. The restricted classification applies to "invasive species that are already established in the state and cause or have the potential to cause significant environmental or economic harm or harm to human health." Learn more about musk thistle at


Owl sitting in vegetation

Last fall I arrived at my hunting land near Dallas, in Dunn County, and on my walk to reach my tree stand I encountered this visitor watching my every move. This short-eared owl was nestled amongst this grassland and by the look in its eyes, I really didn't feel a warm welcome to start my hunt. Seeing and listening to all the wildlife during my hunts provides me so much pleasure and appreciation for nature.

Tom Collins


White deer hairs carpeting the forest floor

While hiking in the eastern part of Vilas County, we came upon this massive carpet of deer fur on and near the trail. We're curious why there would be so much in one area! My husband and I are both Conservation Patrons. We love the magazine and are proud to be patrons of conservation in this beautiful state!

Wendy Lutzke

Kevin Wallenfang, DNR's big game ecologist, provided this explanation: Most likely what they found is a spot where a deer succumbed to winter conditions or a predator kill. All flesh and bone have been carried off or decomposed, but hair can last for a long time. All that's left here is the hair.


My wife and I are involved in the Illinois Forestry Development Act and have a plantation south of Wisconsin near Rockford, Illinois. With the idea of possibly attracting the Kirtland's warbler, we planted more than 500 jack pines about 15 years ago. Being a subscriber to Wisconsin Natural Resources, we were delighted to read the article "A happy tune" (Summer 2018) concerning this species. It is heartwarming to know that there are others with similar intention. We enjoy your magazine immensely and look forward to future articles!

Mark and Cece Dahlgren
Rockford, Illinois


Magazine editors were heartened to receive about a dozen letters from fourth graders in the Stanley-Boyd School District. The students were given assignments to research endangered species in Wisconsin and write a letter to advocate for their protection. We received letters about wolves, whooping cranes, Hine's emerald dragonflies, piping plovers, northern long-eared bats, rusty-patched bumble bees, Canada lynx and eastern Massassauga rattlesnakes. Here's one of the letters.

Hi, my name is Macie LaGrander. I am here to inform you about the Hine's emerald dragonfly. They are a very endangered insect because of their habitat destruction and also because the adults usually only live up to four to six weeks. I was just wondering if you could help save this beautiful and tiny creature. If we do not do something quick they could become extinct.

The Hine's emerald dragonfly is very beautiful; it has bright emerald green eyes, and it has a metallic green body and yellow stripes on its sides. It is about 2.5 inches long and its wingspan is close to 3.3 inches long. They like to eat mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats. The Hine's emerald dragonfly was first found in Ohio. You can now find this dragonfly in Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. You can find them in marshes, wetlands and in cool, shallow slow-moving waters. Because of habitat destruction they do not have very many safe places to have their babies so the population declines a lot. These little creatures are very rare to find. They need your help.

Macie LaGrander

Little girl fishing on a pier with dog sitting next to her


This is a photo of our 5-year-old granddaughter with our Llewellyn English setter fishing with her mom on Armstrong Creek.

Ray and Connie Gudowicz
Armstrong Creek


Black bird with white wing sitting in the grass

Attached is a bird with strange markings that appeared at a feeder in Polk County. It looks like a magpie only the tail feathers are too short. One of the observers thought it was a mutation of a blackbird, as it was with other blackbirds. What are your thoughts?

Steve Price
Spring Valley

This is indeed a blackbird, specifically a common grackle. It exhibits leucism, which is caused by a genetic mutation that prevents the pigment melanin from being properly deposited in its feathers. Leucism also occurs in mammals.


Black squirrel with red tail climbing a tree

Gray squirrel with ringed tail

Black squirrel with white tail

I had always thought that black squirrels were few and far between until I moved to the city of Waupaca. I have seen as many as eight in my yard at one time and am wondering if there is something different about my area or if this is common in other towns also? Included is one of two squirrels that are hanging out this year. There are also three other black squirrels I have seen around with a white-tipped tail, very red tail, and one with white ears. My wife, Molly, happened to get a couple pictures of another squirrel (second photo) eating a peach. She has named him King Julian. We get the weirdest squirrels around here.

Andrew Stashek

I took this photo (bottom) from my kitchen window on June 19 of this year. Couldn't believe my eyes. At first, from a distance, I thought it was a skunk, but as it got closer to my bird feeder, it obviously was not. I have seen albino deer, mink and a weasel, but never something like this.

Jim Shea

Mark Witecha, DNR's upland wildlife ecologist, provided this explanation: These color variations all stem from genetic mutations. They are fairly common in squirrels, and do seem to occur in pockets. I remember seeing many black squirrels in Baraboo and Stevens Point.

Last revised: Monday September 17 2018